Sometimes I just have to sit down and look at my game library and think how many of these games I can play as they are without bothering with online connectivity, updating or needing to consider whether or not I want a character to have a five dollar add-on to power up. Most of my games are complete packages, sold as they were finished. No product is ever truly finished, there are always things that should be tweaked, fixed, added or so on. Perhaps it betrays my stance on how games should be sold as (or rather, anything) where options can be bolted on, but are not necessary as such.
A discussion with a younger friend noted that this line of thought is exactly what I should consider DLC as. The core software is purchased, and it can be enjoyed as is. If I want to get the nice bells and whistles, then I can throw some money at it to add those optional components on. Otherwise, I can always just ignore the content and concentrate on enjoying what is on the table in front of me.
I had to argue against this, of course. While my comparison did turn against me, I had to note to him that modern DLC is not just about trinkets that would serve as optional, like costumes in Dead or Alive games or Oblivion‘s horse armour. No, modern DLC has changed from being additional content to the game and have become more like expansion packs that exist from the get-go. Even that comparison is rather weak, as expansion packs were new content that added to the game rather than being designed to be part of the main package. It’s like if you would need to buy Red Alert: Aftermath to gain access to the units and maps in the game proper. Or as it was in case of Mass Effect 3, the game’s real ending was part of DLC.
While it is true that the production costs have risen in the game industry, they have not risen the way the big names overall want to paint it as. It has been largely chosen by these developers to push technological and graphical elements to the limits while employing celebrities and writers to work on their games. This is weird, considering games with less emphasize on these things tend to succeed just as well, if not better in some cases. Look at the latest Super Mario game and consider its resource expends compared to whatever was EA’s latest big Tripple A title. While graphics do make an impact on the sales, the industry forgets that this is an element of computer game culture, much less part of console gaming, where visual design over graphical fidelity matters more.
Perhaps thanks to Capcom, fighting games and their DLC are not in favourable light, overall. With Street Fighter X Tekken, all the DLC characters were found on-disc, and the purchase was just to unlock them from disc. Calling this DLC was a stretch at best. Similarly, Marvel VS Capcom Infinity had all of its most interesting cast members in the DLC section as well most work put into them. It didn’t help that these characters were present in the game otherwise, telling that pretty much the same deal had happened. Street Fighter V was made to be a platform that Capcom tweaked and expanded upon with Seasons, and they dropped new characters unto it as time went by. Maybe this was a way to keep the players interested on the long term without releasing a completely new title, but it hurt the sales quite a lot. It didn’t help that SFV wasn’t received all that well on the game play department either, which really just made people to wait Capcom to release further versions of the game, like they all always do. Well, Arcade Edition is coming out, but still has the seasonal bullshit welded to it,
Arc Systems Works have been more transparent with their practices to a point, where they’ve recently announced intentions to make additional characters for Dragon Ball Fighters Z DLC, as well as adding DLC characters into BlazBlue‘s and Guilty Gear Xrd‘s later iterations, making it largely unnecessary to purchase them, if you’re willing to wait.
However, ArcSys has dropped the ball with BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, as they announced that half of the cast will be DLC. 20 characters out of 40 will be treated as additional content for you to download. Sure, buy the collector’s box the get download code for All-in-One pack, but if you’re a lowly peasant, be prepared to dish out the dough for twenty characters if you want a complete package. I am using the term “complete” here as it is clear that everything’s planned beforehand and intended as the core package. Certainly it is cheaper and easier to develop DLC as the game’s proper development goes toward the end, which betrays the mentality in which game development nowadays aims to maximise profits at the expense of the consumer. It’s like buying a chicken sandwich, and then hearing that the second half of the chicken needs to be purchased separately, though it is cut from the same piece of meat.
Despite the transparency, this sort of approach really drains the juices. There are consumers who have already stated that they will skip the Dragon Ball Fighters Z just to wait its second version, which will fix bugs, make balance better, add new characters and moves, because that’s how things seem to work. I am glad to see that no other fighting game has gone Street Fighter V‘s platform approach, where you purchase a very weak base, unto which everything else needs to buy bought for. Though free versions of full price games with limited characters and content have been a thing with DoA and Tekken.
The big question is, especially with fighting games, at which point we will cease from seeing complete, fully realised releases in favour of each element being sold as a separate, “optional” addition. At that point, we’re probably pretty screwed, and so would be the industry.